Last 7 years there was quite a big progress in how bands use modern technologies.
From tube amps, cabinets and microphones to digital processors.
From monitor speakers to in-ear monitoring.
From wired to wireless.
From analog mixers to digital mixers.
From 20 minutes long soundcheck down to 5 minute soundcheck.
From dedicated recorders to multitrack recordings in 1 click.
From not being able to hear how the band sounds through the PA system to Virtual soundchecks.
From faders to mobile apps.
For someone, all the good stuff.
For someone, total armageddon.
Now I will not dive into the tube amp VS. digital processor black hole.
I want to tell you something more valuable.
What should your band know before buying in-ear monitoring and digital mixer?
1. NO AMPS NOR MONITOR SPEAKERS ON THE STAGE ANYMORE
Having amps and monitor speakers on stage has some advantages.
When you have a gig in a small club, it's often better to not mic the amps.
Go straight into the audience from the guitar amps (speaker cabinets).
Don't waste the PA's power with guitars if you have guitar amps on stage.
PA system should reproduce the most important stuff of your music.
Vocals, vocals, vocals, ....
Keyboards or samples if you have some.
And possibly the kick drum.
Because the kick drum IS important and accoustically it's almost not heard in the whole band context.
So it's the good idea to mic the kick and send it to the PA too.
The PA without subwoofers or with smaller woofers in the satellite speakers
(12"" woofers are not enough) will not be able to reproduce the kick drum well.
Nobody cares about drum Toms, when it comes to a small club, right?
And cymbals are heard everywhere in the space, right?
On large stages it's completelly different story...
Bleed is much lower since the distances between amps, drums and singer are much bigger.
Better separation, lower bleed, better overal sound clarity.
But if you want to use the modern technologies such like in-ear monitoring and digital mixer,
then amps and monitor speakers don't make sense on stage too much.
At least for the gigs in small clubs.
Quality digital guitar processors with quality IRs are perfect match with these technologies.
And you even don't have to use digital processors if you don't want.
You can even have a nice analog pedalboard with all your favorite analog pedals
and even with tube amp-in-the-box pedal and quality IR loader.
No speaker cabinets, no mics.
Then the overal sound clarity benefits from a less noisy stage.
Of course, you can still have your trusty stage monitoring speaker or a guitar amp.
But it will fight against the system and the overal sound will not be that clear.
The less noisy stage the less muddy overal sound in the PA.
Because there is lower bleed in the stage microphones.
2. YOU NEED AN AUDIO ENGINEER
If you don't know how to work with the digital mixer,
the fastest and the most comfortable solution is to hire an audio engineer to help you with all the settings.
Audio engineering is complex task and it takes years to learn it properly.
So if you don't want to waste a ton of your time and your mental health, hire a professional!
You don't need to have your own audio engineer on every gig.
Every digital mixer has presets and scenes that can be saver and recalled.
If you hire a good engineer, He/She will set it up for you so well
that you can always recall the preset and the sound will be OK as default.
I recommend to hire the engineer at least 2 times.
The 1st time is at your rehearsal to set everything up and to learn the basics.
The 2nd time is on a gig to be sure that the overal sound is good in another space.
Audio engineer can also teach you how to properly mic the drumkit.
3. YOU SHOULD HAVE YOUR OWN MICROPHONES, STANDS, CABLES AND YOU NEED TO KNOW THE POSITIONS.
If you decide to have your own band system, you should have your own mics, stands and cables.
Because you want to save the preset or scene on your digital mixer and recall it anytime.
And if you want to be sure that the sound will be exactly the same everytime,
you need to use the same microphones at the same positions.
If you would use another microphones, the sounds will be different - both colors / tones and levels.
This is not what you want, right?
You have bought your own mixer to have the same sound everywhere.
So you need to have your own microphones and you need to know the mic positions.
And if you have your own microphones then you also need all the stands and cables.
When it comes to cable lenghts, consider the different spaces you will play in
and where will the mixer be placed on the stage plan.
4. MAKE AN INPUT LISTT & LABEL ALL THE GEAR
When you have your own gear, you don't want to lost it, right?
Labels are simple and effective solution.
In case someone forget which input is set for his instrument,
make an input list and upload it somewhere online so you can access it anytime (gDrive, DropBox,...).
Or you can simply label every connector.
I like to do both ;)
5. PREPARE YOUR PRESET LEVELS LIKE THE IS NO FOH ENGINEER
Guitar Lead and Rhythm preset levels on your digital processor are a good example.
Always experiment with a good level differences across presets and let it evolve in time.
Always try to find a good universal sweet spot across different songs.
Like there is no FOH engineer.
Good investment, even there will be a FOH engineer on a gig.
6. DON'T BE A CRAZY PERFECTIONIST
When setting the monitoring levels, try not to change the levels like 3 times a song.
Try to set the levels as you like and then go through 3 or 5 songs and then make some adjustments.
Every song can be a quite different, you could even need 3 different monitoring mixes across 1 song.
Don't be this kind of perfectionist.
If you are a guitarist, gradually develop a perfect balance between your guitar tones.
But don't try to develop a sugically perfect balance between every mixer fader across all songs.
Human hearing is not consistent and there are several factors that have big impact on how we hear.
So keep it in mind.
7. NO BIG BASS CONTENT IN A SMALL IN-EAR HEADPHONES
Please, keep in mind that if you want to hear a big low-end in your headphones,
you need to wear the big closed on-ear headphones that can reproduce big low-end.
Especially bass players should keep this in mind and consider buying high quality headphones
that CAN reproduce the big low-end frequencies and are powerful enough
and are isolating the accoustic noise enough.
There are some quality in-ear headphones that are capable of reproducing big low-end,
but you need to find the ones that really fit your needs.
8. YOU NEED TO ADAPT TO IN-EAR MONITORING
If you have been always performing the music with stage monitor speakers,
then you need to take your time and really adapt to in-ear monitoring.
It's very different.
It brings you the freedom on the stage,
It brings the consistency and the clarity to the sound.
But you will probably not feel the kicking woofer as much as you are used to.
There are even some vibrating backpacks for those who need that strong
full-body experience during their performance.
9. SOMEONE HAS TO BE AN ENGINEER
Even you have hired the experienced audio engineer to set the things up,
I highly recommend to assign the band engineer role to one of the band mates.
The one should learn some audio engineering basics to troubleshoot occassional problems.
10. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Buying a digital mixer and in-ear monitoring is not cheap.
And there are some more expenses connected with it.
Own microphones, some engineering basics learning etc.
If you are considering buying a band system,
try to find another band that already is using a similar system.
Ask them everything, ask them if you could try it yourself before buying your own.
11. CONSIDER ELECTRONIC DRUMKIT
Even you are playing rock or metal music.
Remember, the less noise on stage the better sound.
There are some really good looking electronic drumkits on the market.
And there are tons of quality drum sample libraries with great hit dynamics.
And running electronic drumkit does not need any microhone.
Think about it...
And if you already have your own band system:
A. RECORD YOUR REHEARSAL BEFORE YOU GO FOR A GIG
The big benefit of digital mixers is that they are also running as an audio interface.
Some of them even support the flash disk recording without the need of connecting the computer.
Take the advantage and record your rehearsal easily and hear what will the audience hear.
B. USE THE VIRTUAL SOUNDCHECK
Another benefit is virtual soundcheck function.
This means that if you record the band at rehearsal, then you can recall (route) the recorded multi-track recording straight into the mixer's inputs.
Then you can leave the stage and go in front of the main PA system and listen how does the band sound like.
C. USE THE STAGE MONITORING SPEAKERS AS ADDITIONAL FRONT FILL SPEAKERS
The downside of playing with in-ears and with no amps on stage is that there can be some blind spots right before the stage (no crushing amp sounds from the stage).
If there are some stage monitoring speakers, flip then right into the audience and send the overal (FOH) mix into them so they are filling the blind spots.
D. HAVE A BACKUP
Always have a backup of your mixer presets and scenes available on a flash disk.
Update the backup files once there are some changes and keep the archive files.
Just in case...
E. LET IT EVOLVE OVER TIME
Own band system is a long-therm task.
Be patient, make changes in iterations.